Safina, Sharapova crashed out of US Open Tennis
NEW YORK: World number one Dinara Safina and three-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova crashed out of the US Open at
the hands of teen titans on Saturday, aiding fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova''s title bid.
Petra Kvitova, a 19-year-old Czech who won her first WTA title in January at Hobart, and US giant-killer Melanie Oudin, two weeks shy of her 18th birthday, became the darlings of Flushing Meadows after their third-round shockers.
Kvitova, ranked 72nd, saved three match points in the 12th game of the final set and eliminated Safina 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7/5).
Safina will remain atop the rankings after the Open but is still searching for a first Grand Slam title and a way to play her best when it matters most.
Oudin stunned former world number one Sharapova 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 at Arthur Ashe Stadium by holding serve in the final game after six consecutive service breaks to book a quarter-final berth against Russian 13th seed Nadia Petrova.
Reigning French Open champion and sixth seed Kuznetsova dispatched Israel''s Shahar Peer 7-5, 6-1, to become the highest remaining seed in her half of the draw with dangerous Sharapova also gone.
Oudin followed her upset of former world number one Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon with a second-round US Open ouster of fourth seed Elena Dementieva and added Sharapova to her victims list.
Sharapova, who returned from right shoulder surgery in May, double faulted 21 times and committed 63 unforced errors, 19 more than Oudin, who converted on only 8-of-26 break-point chances.
There was no such optimism for Safina, who made 39 unforced errors and nine double faults with only 12 winners. While Kvitova had 59 unforced errors, she fired 47 winners with only five double faults.
Critics says Safina is less worthy of the top ranking than US Open second seed Serena Williams, the 11-time Slam winner who holds the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles.
Safina, who was upset that officials moved her match off Ashe stadium due to night session time issues, spoke of wanting to ease her tension but said losing the top ranking would not bring her relief.
Safina did nothing to support her cause with a third consecutive match in which she lost the first set, roared back to win the second, then gave away an early break in the third.
This time, she could not overcome her mistakes to advance.
Safina forced three match points on Kvitova''s serve in the 12th game of the last set, but the Czech sandwiched a backhand and forehand winner around a Safina mis-hit backhand to escape the threat and reach the tie-break, which she won on her second match point when Safina sent the ball long.
Kvitova plays for a quarter-final spot against Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, who beat Italy''s Sara Errani 6-3, 6-4.
Kuznetsova, the 2004 US Open winner, plays Danish ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki - who beat Romanian Sorana Cirstea 6-3, 6-2 - for a last-eight spot against Oudin or Petrova, who ousted China''s Zheng Jie 6-4, 6-1.
Argentina''s Gisela Dulko ousted Kazak Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3, 6-4, and will next face Ukraine''s Kateryna Bondarenko, who eliminated Australian qualifier Anastasia Rodionova (AUS) 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.